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What not to carry through airport security… A story of embarrassment.

The small international airport of Winnipeg, Canada, has my name forever flagged. First, it was because my laptop computer had suspicious trace substances. In another instance, I forgot about my Swiss Army Knife. The last time was for the most embarrassing questioning of my life.

I was going to surprise my family in America for Thanksgiving. I had just returned from a solo trip to East Africa, and they were not expecting me until Christmas. I bought a cheap, last-minute ticket and packed in a rush.,

Soon enough, I was waiting at the airport. The flight was delayed and all the passengers had been waiting around for a while. So, when we got updated flight information, it seemed as though the entire flight passed through security at the same time.

I knew the couple in front of me was on my flight because I overheard them complaining about how the delay was going to affect their connection. And Cute Guy behind me was also on my flight because we had been having a flirty conversation to pass the time. He had just offered me a coffee when our updated flight information came over the intercom.

And then we passed through security. I had forgotten one small item in my bag. One small, black container that had no business being anywhere outside of a laboratory. At first, the TSA agent focused on my toiletry bag. A grimmest a little when he pulled every item out of my one-liter common transparent bag (including my feminine hygiene products).

“Any lotions or creams in your bag?” the agent asked.

“I don’t think so.”

The TSA agent pulled out a little bottle of sunscreen.

Oops. “I guess I forgot about that.”

And deodorant. It was the really strong, GUARANTEED ODOR CONTROL FOR 48 HOURS kind that we’ll want everyone to see, right?

Cute Guy, did you see my deodorant?

He was re-packing his computer. Good.

He was still beside me, very politely getting his bags as slowly as possible so we could walk to the gate-side coffee shop together. Just then, the security officer pulled out the container – a small, black container clearly bearing the labels “TOXIC” and “POISON.”

“What are these for?” the agent asked loudly. I could feel my entire face turning tomato-red.

You see, this small nag I was using as my carry-on was the same one that I took for a health check-up a few days prior. My first few days back from my trip to East Africa, I had some typical “travelers diarrhea” that needed attention. The doctor wanted to check for other health issues, like an amoeba, and asked me to bring back a stool sample. He provided this little black container with a small amount of solution to ensure the “integrity of the poo” in case I was slow in returning it to the lab.

However, the next day everything seemed to have “run its course” and I felt completely fine. No need for that stool sample. I completely forgot that it was sitting in a hidden pocket of my bag.

“Oh, um, I don’t need that. Sss-sorry! I forgot it was in there.”

Please just dispose of it! I screamed, in my mind.

“Ma’am, this is poison. You cannot take this on the flight. I need to know where you got this and why you have this in your bag.:

I wished I could melt into the floor. Cute Guy was still nearby and probably hearing every word.

“It’s from the doctor.”


I cleared my throat and leaned in so the TSA Agent could hear me better. “It’s for a stool sample. From the doctor,” I said in a loud whisper.

“Ma’am! This is poison. Why do you have this?”

“It’s for a stool sample.” I grimaced as I spoke out loud.

I just wanted to board my flight. I didn’t care anymore if Cute Guy could overhear. The TSA agent stared at me with a blank face. Clearly, he didn’t understand.

I tried once more in a very loud whisper. “It’s from the doctor. For fecal matter.”

“It says ‘toxic.’ What is this for?”

The TSA agent was speaking louder and apparently did not understand what “stool” mean. There was no way around it. I was just going to have to say it: “It’s for my poo!” I said loudly.

Cute Guy grabbed his bags and started walking away – quickly!

I have never had so much personal space provided in a security clearance area. Immediately, every person near me recoiled. I continued, “It’s for the doctor. To see my poo. I’m sorry, I forgot it was in my bag. I don’t need it, you can keep it.”

The agent looked as if he was going to vomit.

“No! No! There isn’t anything in it right now,” I clarified. “It’s empty – except for, you know, the poison to keep the poo…er, fresh.”

The TSA agent didn’t say anything.

“Nothing…um, no poo in it.” I reiterated.

I felt the need to fill the silence or perhaps explain so it didn’t seem like I had some weird poo obsession. “I was having stomach problems, so the doctor, you know, wanted to check…”

Everyone else passes through security via the alternate screening point. By this point, it was just me and the TSA agent, deciding who was going to hold this unfilled container.

It was a poison, so I couldn’t take it with me.

“Well, um, please just stand there, and my college will give you a physical search,” he said. He passed me off to a female officer while still holding the stool-sample container. I never did see what he did with the container, but he did not seem happy about it.

Finally, I was cleared through security and collected my bags. When I arrived at the boarding gate, I bought my own coffee.

  • Ree Pashley

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